Not the Right Monks (repost)

Another repost from 2004 LiveJournal.

I know I am, but what are you?


I DON’T KNOW WHERE I picked up the line “these are not the right monks”. I know it’s either patristic, or Merton (Sign of Jonas), or Lewis (Screwtape) or Schmemann. Hell, it may be me.

It refers to the idea that all that I’m doing to work out my salvation is wasted because I’m surrounded by idiots or heretics or both. It says, in clearest terms, “These folks are so unholy I’ll never get saved.”

And that saying is a true saying: If I can see how unholy those are around me, I’ll never get saved.

But the sword, decidedly, does not cut both ways. The answer is not in cutting off the neighbor that offends me but rather in plucking out the eye that offends… mine.

I am trapped in a world that constantly urges me to compare myself with others as a measure of “how’m I doin?” And the last thing I want to do is go get some feedback (positive or negative) from those in authority over me. I’d much rather ask the (obviously moronic) dolt who is standing right next to me. And when I get an answer I don’t like? “FEH! What does he know anyway?”

I am overcome this evening by the fact that one of the traditional monastic vows is stability. I know how much I like change, I know how much I need to have my tuchas kicked to get me out of a rut, but really, when I’m honest, I do not enjoy the responsibilities that come with being stable. You stay in one place, stay in one job, stay in one apartment, you don’t ever have to worry about moving, about finding a vocation about living the life God may be calling you to.

Change is, of course, sometimes required… except it’s called “growth” and transformation. The changes we make are in ourselves. It’s called Salvation.

The one thing I’ve noticed is after an idea has percolated in my head, it’s time to ask my Spiritual Father. Yes, I know, cultism rears its ugly head. But that’s the man God has placed in Authority over me. Oddly enough I’ve never brought a major life change to my priest (either of them) that he didn’t bless (like moving to NC, or getting this new job).

And you know, things go better with blessings.

I know, someplace in my heart, that these are the right monks because there are times when I’d really rather be anywhere other than here. I know these are the right monks because when I manage to put my ego away I learn some things that I don’t know. I know that these are the right monks because these are my family. I know these are the right monks because suddenly I see Christ where ever I look: except in my own heart. Most importantly, I know these are the right monks because this is where God has placed me. It’s not a matter of feeling, or of warm fuzzies. It’s a faith thing. When these are not the right monks… I’m losing my faith in God.

So, thank You, God. I’m not really smarter than You. I can’t go one better than You saying “no, really, I know where I’d do better than where You put me. Oddly enough I always seem to do worse there.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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